tot·ter | \ˈtä-tər \
tottered; tottering; totters

Definition of totter 

(Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to move unsteadily : stagger, wobble

2a : to tremble or rock as if about to fall : sway

b : to become unstable : threaten to collapse



Definition of totter (Entry 2 of 2)

: an unsteady gait : wobble

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Synonyms for totter

Synonyms: Verb

careen, dodder, lurch, reel, stagger, teeter, waddle

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Examples of totter in a Sentence


The child tottered across the room. He tottered away to bed.

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

As a heat wave gripped England over the weekend and the government tottered, with two cabinet ministers resigning on Monday, there were enormous impromptu gatherings on the street, some celebratory, some that turned violent. Jonathan Wilson,, "Gareth Southgate Makes Own Luck in Guiding England to World Cup Semifinals," 10 July 2018 Defense lawyers William DeStefano and Terri Pawelski painted the Tartaglione clan, which has long held an iron grip on its corner of the city’s Democratic machine, as a family now tottering toward extinction. Chris Brennan,, "Judge Beth Grossman? Philly's GOP nominee for DA may be appointed to the court | Clout," 28 June 2018 Few would have predicted that democracy would totter in Poland, a booming economy with few immigrants that has benefited hugely from European Union membership. The Economist, "Lessons from the rise of strongmen in weak states," 14 June 2018 The world tech elites seek doesn’t adapt to the rank-and-file; the rank-and-file adapts to it, navigating the tottering jobs and cramped quarters that ever-wealthier plutocrats insist are hallmarks of innovation. Julianne Tveten, The New Republic, "Silicon Valley’s “Flexibility” Fetish," 31 May 2018 But when Lehman Brothers, a firm about 50% larger than Bear, began to totter six months later, the Treasury unaccountably reversed its policy. Peter J. Wallison, WSJ, "The Treasury Still Needs to Bid Adios to OLA," 4 Mar. 2018 The fawn tottered on its spindly legs as Maggie, a 1-year-old Labrador retriever, walked over to investigate. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin man encounters rare white deer fawn on Sauk County morel mushroom hunt," 15 May 2018 Girls in silk, taffeta and tulle tottered in sky-high heels. San Francisco Chronicle, "She wanted everything to be perfect, just for one night.," 5 May 2018 The revived probes come as Brazil’s once-tottering economy improves and its stock market posts one of the world’s best rallies. Julia Leite,, "Brazil Scandals Make a Comeback, Threatening World's Best Stocks," 6 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Instead of stitching the hipbelt to the back panel, Kelty feeds it behind the lumbar pad and allows it a few millimeters of movement, as if each wing of the hipbelt were a playground teeter-totter. Kelly Bastone, Outside Online, "The Best Women’s Backpacking Packs," 13 July 2018 The bow teeter-totters delicately over two large industrial light bulbs planted in a crude wooden bowl. Joseph Giovannini, New York Times, "Swiss Institute Has a New Home Ready-Made for Art," 28 June 2018 Image Bit totters on perilously high leopard-print heels, and sports a pink wig and mismatched clothes. New York Times, "Review: More Than the Couples Are Odd in ‘The Hollower’," 25 May 2018 Others spin hula hoops, or leap through the air with a large teeter-totter. Anne Nickoloff,, "Cirque du Soleil will bring acrobatic 'Corteo' tour to Cleveland this fall (photos)," 7 May 2018 But as we near a few huts made of branches and draped with mosquito netting, a slender woman in a worn T-shirt and sari totters toward us. Ann Gibbons, Science | AAAS, "Farmers, tourists, and cattle threaten to wipe out some of the world’s last hunter-gatherers," 17 May 2018 Six robots at a time would square off in the arena, scrabbling at yellow milk crates and trying to lift them onto a 6-foot teeter totter. Matthew Ormseth,, "Bot Battle Royale: Robotics Teams Square Off At Hartford Public," 8 Apr. 2018 Teams were awarded points for every second the teeter totter swung toward their side. Matthew Ormseth,, "Bot Battle Royale: Robotics Teams Square Off At Hartford Public," 8 Apr. 2018 The unprecedented thing this time is we’re experiencing, in effect, a third-party presidency that’s broken the teeter-totter and split both parties. San Francisco Chronicle, "Both political parties are more dysfunctional than Trump White House," 21 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'totter.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of totter


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a


1709, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for totter


Middle English toteren

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Statistics for totter

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Time Traveler for totter

The first known use of totter was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for totter



English Language Learners Definition of totter

: to move or walk in a slow and unsteady way

: to become weak and likely to fail or collapse


tot·ter | \ˈtä-tər \
tottered; tottering

Kids Definition of totter

1 : to sway or rock as if about to fall

2 : to move unsteadily : stagger

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Comments on totter

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